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The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved rules directing wireless carriers to improve the geographic targeting of their emergency communications.

FCC commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the new regulations for carriers that participate in delivering Wireless Emergency Alerts. Under the approved rules, as of Nov. 30, 2019, alerts must be sent to wireless customers no more than one-tenth of a mile outside a target area specified by the alerting authority.

Emergency messages must also remain available on devices for at least 24 hours following their initial receipt. In addition, the commission directed participating carriers to support Spanish-language alerts by May 2019 — the same as the deadline to support messages of 360 characters in length rather than the current 90.

FCC officials said the new rules will enable critical information to reach affected communities without disturbing broader populations.

“The updated rules are intended to promote the wider use and effectiveness of this life-saving service, especially for state and local authorities to convey critical messages to their communities,” the commission said in a statement.

Scott Bergmann, SVP for Regulatory Affairs at wireless group CTIA, said the industry would "work closely with stakeholders as we endeavor together to meet the FCC’s ambitious deadlines.”

The Competitive Carriers Association, which represents smaller and regional carriers, praised the measures adopted Tuesday but warned that many of its members face difficulties "obtaining the newest devices and requisite software updates necessary to enhance emergency alerting."

“I thank the commission for its work on this important issue for the benefit of carriers, public safety officials and consumers alike,” said CCA President and CEO Steven Berry. “I would caution the FCC not to adopt rules before the technology is available.”

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